The Justice of Nicaragua, which lives under a dictatorship under the command of Daniel Ortega, indefinitely revoked the political rights of 14 prisoners in the country, according to a complaint by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh), a measure classified by the organization as a “legal aberration”.
The sentence, issued by Judge Nadia Tardencilla, prohibits the targets of the decision, for life, from running in any elections or holding public office.
Punishment, according to the country’s Penal Code, would be accessory – a category that cannot exceed the duration of the main sentence. According to Cenidh, the 14 affected were convicted of conspiracy against national integrity and alleged dissemination of false news, crimes that carry sentences of five years each and resulted in 10 years in prison.
“For Cenidh, this is an affront to law, intelligence, the international community and international human rights organizations,” the group said in a statement. “We denounce to the world this legal barbarism, this indiscriminate persecution that destroys not only institutionality, but also any trace of legal security that existed in the country. It is the annihilation of political prisoners, whose immediate release we demand.”
Among those convicted are priests Ramiro Tijerino, Sadiel Eugarrios, José Luis Diaz and Raúl Vegas, seminarians Darvin Leiva and Melkin Centeno and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas. The entire judicial process is criticized by the human rights group and by the independent media that still resist the repression imposed by the dictatorship.
In recent years, Ortega has come to dominate the country’s legislature and has advanced over the judiciary, appointing new Supreme Court justices to enable the approval of laws that correspond to his interests, such as the one extending the duration of pre-trial detention.
Few details are known of the hearing that resulted in the withdrawal of political rights. It was held on the 3rd of March behind closed doors, according to the Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial. According to anonymous sources for the publication, the priests and the cameraman claimed to be innocent during the trial and read verses from the Bible.
There are 245 opponents arrested in the country, which became autocratized after demonstrations against the pension reform proposed by the Ortega regime in 2018. During the protests, at least 355 were killed, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).
The Nicaraguan dictator promotes a crusade against the Catholic Church in his country. During the 2018 protests, the Episcopal Conference, then a mediator between the regime and the opposition, considered the deaths a systematic and organized aggression and announced that it would not return to the dialogue table to end the crisis as long as the population continued to be “repressed and murdered”. Since then, at least seven religious leaders have been arrested by the regime.
Ortega was one of the leaders of the Sandinista Revolution that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship and participated in the first junta that led the country after the fall of the dynasty, between 1979 and 1990, when he peacefully left power. He returned to the Presidency in 2007 and since then has tried to make the opposition unfeasible. In the 2021 elections, when he was reappointed to office for the fourth consecutive time, the seven opposition candidates were arrested, accused of money laundering and treason.
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